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Report: Providence Pig Breakdown Event - 9 Mar 08

Fat Guy

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Today I went to Providence to butcher a pig. My train to Providence from New York City was at 7am, but with the spring time-change overnight it made my wake-up time feel like 4:30am. But it was worth it.

Many photos were taken, much video was captured, and I'm sure those reports will be rolling in soon. I just had a few impressions of the event (the schedule and details of the day are here) that I wanted to share:

First, our hosts Matt Gennuso (the chef of Chez Pascal, where the event took place) and Matt Jennings (of Farmstead and La Laiterie) were incredibly giving of their time, information and meat. Not only did they tirelessly instruct us all day long about all things pork, but also they put out an amazing and abundant lunch spread of cooked and cured items. It was like an entire meal of grilled meats, plus an entire meal of charcuterie, but it was one meal that began at lunchtime, sustained us as we returned to the platters and grazed throughout the day, and still supported plenty of leftovers for folks to take home. Chris (Amirault) and Steve (New England) did an excellent job putting the event together. Thanks guys.

Second, I came for the pig but I stayed for the knowledge. Really, the venture to Providence (which requires 3.5 hours of train travel each way for me), would have been worth it just for the detailed Gennuso tutorial on how to butcher a pig into a variety of restaurant-appropriate cuts. But that was only the beginning. After that, Jennings led us through the production of pate, we had our epic lunch, we prepared and salted a leg for prosciutto with Gennuso, we made Toscano salami with Jennings, we made sausage with Gennuso and, before all that, there was a presentation about pork, agriculture and all manner of related issues supported by a nifty full-color booklet that our hosts prepared for the event.

Third, it was such a pleasure to be part of this group effort to learn and do. I hope the chefs were as into it as we all were. When you go out to eat at a restaurant, and you're a food-obsessed eGullet Society type, you sometimes feel as though you're the only person in the room who cares deeply about the food -- it seems like everyone else is more interested in the atmospherics of dining out. So it's a real treat to be surrounded by a group where each person comes to the table already dialed in at the maximum enthusiasm setting.

Looking forward to some of those photos and, eventually, video.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks to everyone for a great event today at Chez Pascal In Providence. Big props to Matt Gennuso from Chez Pascal and Matt Jennings from Farmstead/ La Laiterie for leading the way with such passion and good cheer. Both Matts are naturals in front of a crowd. The group of participants was really outstanding as expected. The more events we do in the New England forum, the more impressed I get by the quality people that show up. There were just a ton of great questions,comments and contributions from all the pig enthusiasts that came out today.

The event included a brief presentation by Matt J on topics ranging from important pork related literature to pork industry regulations and trends. Following that, Matt G broke down the pig for us step by step. We learned a variety of uses for each particular cut. This part of the program really highlighted just how important (and possible) it is to use every bit of the animal. Matt J took over for a bit and showed us how he makes pate' campagne,which lead nicely into the charcuterie/curing segment after a fantastic lunch break.

Lunch included several types of sausage, our four legged friend's loin, house cured prosciutto, among other great treats. Patrick from Casey farm brought some tasty ham steaks & Catherine Iino also brought some wonderful bread she baked for us.

After lunch Matt G jumped into an overview of prosciutto making. We got to see him start one proscuitto, as well as a couple of examples of product further along the curing process. This was really a treat to see it done in person. Trying to figure something like this out from a book is pretty daunting to someone that doesn't work in a restaurant or in the food industry. Seeing it in done step by step really makes it seem like a project a home cook/food enthusiast could take on with the proper care.

Near the end of the day people got to get their hands dirty...err.. piggy, with some sausage/ salami making. Again it was great to see the process broken down step by step.

The event ran from 10AM until 4:30ish and it really flew by. I personally learned a great deal from everyone involved. I hope we can make events like this a regular occurrence.

In the following days we'll be posting more photos and eventually some video clips of the event thanks to Mike Murphy who donated his time to shoot and edit the event for us. As always we'd love people to chime in with their thoughts on the event.

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Here are a few photos to get the ball rolling:

Matt Jennings gives us the lowdown before the break down


Here's the special guest


Matt Gennuso going over the various parts of the animal


Matt Jennings grinding meat for the pate'


Steven Shaw helping out at the stove.






Matt Jennings stuffs a beef middle to make a Salami Toscana


The first step to making prosciutto


An example of a prosciutto after several months curing.


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Thanks to all involved and attending! Matt and Matt were terrific hosts and guides, generous with their time, resources, and care. And thanks to all the guests, who made the event truly memorable.

A few more snaps:

Matt forming his paté with Steve and Brian looking on.


Some guy cooking spaetzle. Didn't catch the name.


Lunch: top row, L2R: sauerkraut, spaetzle; bottom row: Casey Farms ham (thanks Patrick), paté and sausage (thanks Matts), grilled loins from the pig.


Amazing cured meats, pickles, and nuts plates from Farmstead; some of Matt G's prosciutto; remarkable bread from Catherine's own oven (which Matt G could not believe!).


Catherine whacking the prosciutto to drive the blood out of it.


Eric taking a crack at it under Matt G's watchful eye.


Sorry for the shaky frames. I get nervous around large, swinging sticks. :wink:

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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